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.”The sisters walked through the forest to a high meadow.The light rain stopped, and the sun peeped out now and again from behind the thinning clouds.When they returned to the lodge, Meggie’s stew was bubbling in the pot, and it smelled wonderful.India slowly climbed the narrow little staircase to the bedchamber to lie down, for she was tired and her back hurt.She awoke to a piercing pain.“Meggie! Fortune!” she called, struggling to sit up.Hearing her call, the two girls raced up the stairs, and into the bedchamber.One look told them that India was probably about to have her child early.“Do you know what to do?” Fortune asked Meggie.Meggie swallowed hard, saying, “I think so.I was there when my mother birthed her last child.We’ll need hot water, clean clothes, and, for God’s sake, send Diarmid down to Glenkirk to tell the duchess.She’ll want to come and be with my lady India.This could take hours.”Fortune flew from the room, dashed down the stairs, filled the cauldron with water, and set it to boil.Then out into the stable yard she ran, calling to Diarmid as she went.The big man took one look at the girl, and knew the reason for her fright and excitement.“Get yer horse, Mistress Fortune, and ride to fetch yer mam and yer da.Ye’re no use here, I can see.I’ll be more help to Meggie than ye will, lassie, meaning no offense to ye.”Fortune didn’t argue with the big man.She knew he was being kind, and, more important, speaking the truth.“I’ve put a kettle on to boil, and there’s a stack of clean cloths we prepared for this occasion in the cupboard in the fireplace wall, Diarmid.”He nodded, and walked toward the lodge as she hurried into the stable to saddle her gray.It was a two-hour ride to Glenkirk, but she would make it before sunset.Still Mama would be coming up the ben in the darkness, but come she would.Fortune tightened the cinch on the gray, and clambered onto his back, riding him right out the stable doors and onto the track that led down the ben toward Glenkirk.India’s labor was hard, but very, very short.She sweated, and she swore blue oaths that turned Meggie’s face bright red, and set Diarmid to chuckling as he encouraged her onward.“Ohh, m’lady, dinna let the bairn hear such words, and him just coming new into the world,” Meggie pleaded with her mistress.“Bloody hell!” India snarled.“It hurts, damn it! Why won’t the little wretch be born? Ahhhhh! Merde! Merde! Merde!”“Ye’re doing fine, lassie,” Diarmid said quietly.“Now, when ye feel the pain again, gie us a hard push to help the wee laddie along.”India nodded.“I dinna think you should be here,” Meggie fretted.“He stays!” India snapped.“He obviously knows more about this than you do.Besides, I suspect there’s nothing I have that Diarmid hasn’t already seen.Ooooooooh!”“Push, lassie! Push! Ah, there’s a good lass,” Diarmid said calmly in the very same tone India had heard him use with the collie.“And here’s his wee head, dark as a raven’s wing, it is.Gie us another push, lassie.” And when India complied, he said, “he’s half born now,” and, bending, he opened the infant’s mouth and pulled a clot of mucus out of it.The baby took a breath, and began to wail.“Ohhhh! Ohhh! Ohhhh!” India cried, and, feeling herself swept by another spasm, she pushed hard again, and felt the baby sliding fully from her body.“Is he all right? Let me see him!” she cried out to them.Meggie had caught the child in a linen cloth as it was born.She wrapped it about the baby, and lay him on his mother’s belly.“Here he is, my lady,” she said, tears in her eyes.India cradled her son for a long moment.He did have black hair, and the blue eyes that looked up at her were the eyes of Caynan Reis.Tears slipped down her face as she looked at this miracle their love for each other had wrought.The baby had stopped crying now.“Rowan Lindley is your name, my son,” she whispered to him.“Gie me back the laddie, my lady,” Diarmid said.“I must cut the cord, and ye must let Meggie finish what ye hae started.Ye dinna need me here now.” He took the child, neatly cutting and knotting the cord.Then, without another word, he left the bedchamber.“Thank you, Diarmid More-Leslie!” India called after him.Meggie now wiped the baby free of the birthing blood with warmed oil and wine [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]